Thinking About: Initiations / Rites of Dedication

yule lantern

Yesterday, I was finally able to perform my initiatory rite into the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I’m not able to speak at great length about the ritual itself in this post, but I can speak about my feelings leading up to it, and my thoughts following its completion.

Despite having the materials for the course for the past six months or so, I had done very little of the actual course work. Life sort of caught up with me, and my job, home life, and mental health just did not lend me the time and proper head space I had needed to perform the rite. Thankfully, the quiet spell has seemed to have broken over the past couple of days, and I’m feeling called home once again to my practice, my art, and my studies with the little warm spell we appear to be having.

Strangely enough, it was the rite of initiation that had given me some of the most trouble in the materials I had received- not because of its content or its format or any objections I had with what it would entail. I couldn’t quite place the source of it for those first months- in fact, I don’t know that I realized some of the… oddness I’d been feeling until I was speaking to a friend about the topic this afternoon.

Every so often, I had found myself called to go over it once again. I’d start making the plans and preparing for it, and something would come up: the weather would get bad, I’d have something I had to do, etc. It would be set aside and left for the next time I’d felt the stirring somewhere within me to get back to work.

Yesterday was different. I had finally accomplished reformatting the rite a bit so that it would work with the amount of private space I had and a few other technicalities; it sat in my journal, just waiting to be performed. Yesterday was another of our random January thaws. The sun was bright and we were nearing forty or fifty degrees Fahrenheit rather than the bitter 10’s and 20’s that are typical of this time of year. I felt it on my way in to work that morning; something was stirring. By the time I was home for the afternoon, the desire to be outdoors and working on something was burning within me.

And something spoke to me then: the initiation ritual. And after months of trying to plan it out, to perhaps contact other local-ish OBOD members to assist me in performing it, to make sure everything was prepared… I decided simply that I was going to go through with it, and quickly gathered some incense and a candle and my journal, and headed out to the small grove of pine and cedars that has been my sacred space for over ten years…

The ritual was nice, pleasant, it brought me back to a sense of being at home- on my land, within my being, in my spirituality… But as I was walking inside after its completion, and as I was talking to my friend this afternoon, I couldn’t help but think that initiation and dedication rites are never quite as profound as we expect them to be.

herne candle

I find I’m always, on a certain level, expecting the ritual itself to be the eye-opening, awen-inspired moment of “Ah-ha! I understand completely, and now everything will start to be different!” But as I reflected upon my journey to the rite itself, and upon the lessons included with the ritual in my course materials, I realized that the true initiation had begun long before I had stepped out the door that afternoon.

Initiation and dedication to a specific path happens not in the single moment of a ritual. They begin within us before a circle is drawn or a candle lit. The shift of paradigm has occurred before the rite; the rite is merely a formality, a means of affirming that which we have already long known to be true. The epiphany is not a new paradigm or state of being, but a realization that we have arrived at this new place some time ago, and can now acknowledge and celebrate it.

For me, that shift started back some seven or so years ago, when I first saw the Green Man staring up at me from the pages of a book, and I started upon my discovery of Druidry. It was there in my discovery of the OBOD’s countless open resources, the befriending of other members of the order, the books, podcasts, YouTube videos, music, etc. that I found resonated with me- which were created by members. A shift had occurred the day that I purchased the Bardic Grade course, and again on the day I received the first packet of gwersi in the mail. What happened in the grove yesterday was merely me finding the voice to affirm and speak aloud the truths that had been in my heart for years. And now, the journey deeper into my studies continues.

What are your experiences with initiation rites or dedication rituals (be them to a new path, deity, etc.)? Share, if you’d like, in the comment section below.

Blessings of the Winter Forest,
Rachel

Advertisements

Thinking About: Rites of Passage / A Pagan Life’s Rituals

14962576_1308522592511297_2212614169165080724_n.jpg

This post is sort of serving as a jumping-off point for a video I have planned for prompts 17-22 of the YouTube Pagan Challenge, all of which sort of center around rites of passage, major life events, and rituals of living a pagan life:

17. How would you introduce spirituality to children, would you pass this book on to your children?
18. Funeral rite and how would you prefer your remains to be treated?
19. Rites for the birth of a child, adoption, naming and blessing ceremonies.
20. Coming of age rites and customs for the stages of life.
21. Marriage or partnership ceremony.
22. Is there such a thing as a twin flame, soul mate, destined partner?

I had mentioned before that I was sort of raised without a formal religious background. To my knowledge, I wasn’t baptized in any way; there wasn’t any sort of formal naming/blessing ceremony. Significant birthdays for me were age 13, 18, and when I left my teens behind at age 20 (By the time I’d hit 21, I’d already consumed alcohol and had been able to do it legally in the U.K. two years prior. The magic had sort of worn off). But they weren’t, at least in a way that was obvious to me then, spiritual in any way.

I also haven’t been married, or undergone any of the other rites mentioned above myself. The funerals I’ve attended have all been rather Christian in their design as well, so in a Pagan sense I’ve not much experience there either. But I do have ideas, which I’ll discuss further down below.

IMG_0708.JPG

I think, given the opportunity and provided I end up having children, that I would definitely share my spirituality with them. I would want to call upon my gods (and my partner’s) to bless and protect that child. When they were older, I would share with them the stories of the gods, celebrate the sabbats, explain to them the different parts of spellcraft, ritual, and my altar spaces. If, when they grew older, they found that that faith was not what they believed, they would absolutely be free to practice whatever religion (or lack thereof!) they wished. I think the important thing is approaching religion with children not as something obligatory or something that will bring upon the punishment of you or your gods should they elect not to participate in. It should be something exploratory. It should be something they are welcome to ask questions about, form their own ideas / opinions about. I really would have enjoyed something like that as a kid- not that coming to my own conclusions and learning on my own wasn’t valuable and rewarding in its own right.

As far as coming of age rites go, I think some of the birthdays mentioned above might be important to them. Perhaps, should they decide they want to, I might help them with their own witchy dedications and the like, but I really feel that so much of that is deeply personal to the individual. The important thing, when I get to that point, will be open communication with my child.

I don’t know that I would pass my books of shadows on to my children at all. They’re too personal to me. I think I’d much rather have a compiled grimoire of things that I had found useful or created myself to pass down instead of my full journals themselves. I think I’d want those buried with me (but more on that down below).

e7489eececa6d700ba1f108588a4db5c

Two of Cups- After Tarot

Moving past childhood and adolescence, we come to the questions about marriage and partnership. I’m not sure that I believe in twin flames or soul mates and all that. I believe that my current boyfriend is someone whom I would like to spend the rest of my life with, and we have indeed talked about marriage, children, all that good stuff. Maybe it’s soul-destined, maybe not? I don’t know, really. Maybe some people are soul mates, but I think that society has created this sort of toxic idea about soul mates, and all of this stress on finding “The One”. In reality, all things in life are transient. People change, circumstances change, etc. I think that focusing too much on finding “the one” and that being the end-all-be-all of our intimacy and relations with people can be more detrimental than helpful.

But enough of that negative nancy-ing about soul mates, and on to the more fun stuff, yeah? I would very much love to have a handfasting ceremony. This is something I’ve been discussing with my boyfriend as we’ve making plans to live together, etc. Basically, the “Big White Wedding” really isn’t my style. Give me an intimate gathering of close friends and family, a simple handfasting ceremony where everything is done outdoors and such, and big bonfire and good food to celebrate afterwards. That to me is infinitely more special than a fancy white dress I’ll only wear once, and a big elaborate party. As I’ve said though, this is still nothing more than a Pinterest board fantasy lingering in the periphery of my life right now.  There’s much to do still before that becomes something I need to worry about.

7494a2dfff616e79843b66a75c8709e8

10 of Swords- Robin Wood Tarot

And now, onto the stuff I’m actually, strangely, the most passionate about: death and funeral rites. I’ve been increasingly more interested in the death-positivity and green burial movements: those that put after-death care more into the hands of the family of the deceased. I think that handling the corpse, arranging the funeral, etc. should be less taboo. There was a time when all of this was done by the family, and I’d really love to work towards making that more common-place once again, and making burials less harmful of an impact on the natural environment.

That said, I’ll return to a statement I made earlier about my books of shadows, and the topic of how I would like my remains treated. I think, truthfully, that I would like my books of shadows burned with my corpse and the cremains used in one of those Bios urns to plant a tree. That, I feel, would be a lot better than a concrete tomb with a giant stone over it.

Obviously all of these things are entirely dependent upon what happens in the future. How starting my own family goes in the future, who my partner is (though I’ve a pretty good idea of who that’ll be 😉 ), and all manner of other circumstances play a part in how these different rites of passage will come into being. Regardless of what happens, my faith in the gods, will likely play a large part in how they’re carried out.

What rites of passage have you marked? What ones do you plan to? Leave them in the comments below!

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Thinking About: St. Patrick’s Day and The Spring Equinox

d0umbzf

image found via wallpapercave.com

Today marks a holiday that has, for a very long time, held a great deal of significance in my life: St. Patrick’s Day. Now, I am not, nor was I ever raised Catholic, but I was made familiar with the story about how St. Patrick “drove the snakes from Ireland” as a kid- and was later introduced to the notion that the “snakes” in question were in fact the remnants of Celtic paganism in Ireland.

Growing up, St. Patrick’s Day was among the most elaborately celebrated holidays in my family / friend group (Halloween and Christmas/Yule were the only things of more significance). It was something that had many fond memories, wearing green, listening to Celtic music, attending the parade downtown, and enjoying the Irish inspired feast that was prepared by family friends. I had, for a long time, been very interested in my Celtic heritage, and St. Patrick’s Day was, in essence, a day in which I could celebrate that apologetically. But realizing, as I was growing into my Pagan path, that this day was considered to be a day celebrating a man who is credited with ridding Ireland of pagans, left me at a sort of moral quandary.

When I was a bit younger than I am now, I liked to support the sort of anti-Catholic reclaiming of the day: all of those “Proud to be a snake” type sentiments that seem to go around. But, as I’ve made clear, I’ve been studying medieval history (in which the Catholic Church plays a rather prominent role), as well as my own ancestry and continuing my interest in Celtic spirituality. The truth of the matter is that much of what we know about the ancient Celts and their stories come from the transcribing of them by Catholic monks. I’ve learned more, also, about the ways in which the Celtic Church adopted certain aspects of Celtic spirituality from the pagan roots that had remained. Books on Celtic spirituality today, whether they’re focused on a more Pagan or Christian view point seem to focus on many of the same virtues: hospitality, heritage, music and poetry as sacred things, connection with the land…

So why get lost in the battle over which religious tradition is more “correct”? Why spend a day being angry about something that happened well over a thousand years ago?  I’ve chosen, instead, to observe this day as one on which to connect with my ancestors: both of blood, and of the Celtic spirit that still survives in both Pagan and Christian aspects of spirituality, and to really focus on those aspects of Celtic spirituality that I wish to continue on into my own practice. So, whichever way you observe St. Patrick’s Day, I hope you enjoy it!

ostara-eggs

image found via: crystalinks.com

The Spring Equinox is also just about upon us. This year, I believe it falls on March 20th. For me, Ostara, or the Spring Equinox, has been a holiday I’ve never really know what to do with. As I believe I’ve mentioned, the seasonal weather patterns don’t always quite line up in Michigan, to the Wheel of the Year which is more oriented towards European climates. The days and nights may well be equal in length on the equinox, but the hold of winter is usually still very present here well into April / nearly May. The balance has never quite been something I’ve really felt this time of year. Speaking in the terms of deities, the goddesses often associated with the name of the festival: Eostere, Ishtar, etc. have never been goddesses that I have felt called to work with either.

This year, I’ve been finding myself called to an archetype I believe does sort of coincide with the idea of balance between dark and light: that of the maiden goddess of death. Persephone as flower maiden / Queen of the Underworld, Hella the half beautiful/half corpse like ruler of Helheim, Blodeweudd as beautiful flower maiden / but also the one responsible for Lleu Llaw Gyffes’ death… The juxtaposition of the beautiful young woman and the archetype of death one might more readily associate with a crone goddess instead. It feels extremely relevant to me, a young woman, who is seeking to go into funeral service work in the future. Perhaps, this Spring Equinox would be an ideal time to start working with one or more of these goddesses and see where the journey takes me.

How will you be celebrating the Spring Equinox?

Wishing you a blessed St. Patrick’s Day / Ostara / Spring Equinox and wonderful weekend,
Rachel

YT Pagan Challenge: Sacred Spaces, Holy Sites, and Circle Casting

I had been hoping to film part of my eighth YT Pagan Challenge video outdoors in one of my on-campus sacred spaces, but it seems the weather is just not willing to agree with me. So, so I can give you all a bit of a visual, this post will be jam-packed full of pictures of the places I was talking about in the video.

First thing’s first: my on-campus sacred spaces. I am blessed to be going to a university that is filled with small garden spaces and has a sprawling expanse of wooded ravines hugging along the side of campus. In my five years here, I’ve been able to find a number of places to relax, be one with nature, and perform a few rituals and magical workings in. Three of the major places where I tend to hang out and do my workings are the arboretum, the garden behind the religious center on campus, and a grove back in the ravines behind the art building.

In each of these spaces, I’ve found little places to leave offerings, quiet spots to sit and meditate, and have even done a few rituals there.

The arboretum is full of places to explore, and I admittedly spend a lot more time there than anywhere else. There’s a stump I’ve found a short distance off of the path that I use frequently for spell work, and have left offerings at over the past few years. It happens also to overlook a ravine in a pretty straight shot to the grove I’d found in the woods as well.

IMG_1588.JPG

In the little garden behind the religious building on campus, there’s a statue of St. Francis that seems to have a presence and an energy all its own. I’ve made a habit of leaving little offerings in the hands of the statue whenever I go there to write, drum, meditate, etc.

12074610_1028134537216772_1800894990469466904_n.jpg

And then, of course, there is the grove in the ravines. It’s just off the path, and was shown to me by a good friend who graduated a couple of years ago. It’s often where I go if I’m looking to communicate with the Wylde Hunt while on campus, and has been the site for a couple of rituals. There’s a large three-trunked oak that sits in its center, and there are a few places to sit in little nooks between its roots. I like this place because it is a little further away from the main part of campus, and therefore quieter. You can’t hear the bells from the clock tower and are a lot less likely to see people wandering by. There’s also a fantastic view of the stars on clear nights.

Aside from these natural spaces, I do tend to do much of my ritual / meditation / etc. within the safety (and warmth!!!) of my dormitory bedroom, as well. My room is almost always decorated with pictures that are sacred, beautiful, inspiring, etc. to me and I try to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for myself to live/study/rest/etc. in and for my friends to visit.

My altar space is situated by the window, which overlooks a little courtyard and the woods beyond.While I’m at school, this is the most sacred space to me, and I work really hard to keep it that way while I’m here.

Of course, when I’m home for winter / spring / summer break, I have places where I go to practice as well. Due to the nature of the space situation in my parents’ home, most of those places are outdoors.

In my own backyard, I am again blessed to have a great expanse of land full of trees and a big ol’ forest beyond. In particular, there’s a small grove hidden among a bunch of pine and cedar trees where I do some more private rituals, and then there’s Treebeard, a cottonwood tree where I leave offerings, prayer ribbons, etc. and spend time enjoying the space on the shady hill just beneath him.

I’m also blessed to have other little places of beauty within my hometown such as the local state park, my local witchy shop, and my aunt’s gorgeous and wild garden. These are places that really make me feel attuned to the energies of the universe and the natural world, and where I like to perform tarot readings, have debates about different witchy/spiritual topics, etc. with my friends.

And of course, there are a number of places in Michigan that have spiritual significance to me. The biggest one is the Boyne/East Jordan/Charlevoix area up in the northern part of our lower peninsula. Over the years, it has been a place full of childhood memory as well as shared memories and explorations with one of my best friends, Mark.

Being a pagan who follows a primarily Celtic path and lives within the United States makes it a little difficult to visit holy sites associated with my practice. There are, no surprise, remarkably few here in the states. There are Native American sacred sites, but because that runs along the slippery slope of what is culturally appropriative and what is respect for the culture and traditions associated with those sites, you’ll note that none of the places I’ve shared above are tied to those places. I was fortunate enough, four years ago, to visit the United Kingdom and places like Stonehenge, Avebury, and Glastonbury. These are memories that I hold really dear to my heart, and feel very privileged to have experienced in my lifetime.

Two of my very favorite memories from my trip to the UK came from my experiences on the weekend we went visiting various sacred sites. While in Chalice Well Gardens, I’d sat down by the well head to meditate and get away from the rest of the crowd of students I was with for a while, and man and his young daughter sat down alongside of me. The little girl had to have been about 4 or 5 years old at most, and as most 4-5 year-olds are, she was a little rambunctious and was bouncing around a bit. Rather than be upset with her, or harsh, I heard her father very calmly explain this was a special place, and saw (much to my amazement and admiration really) her nod in understanding, and sit down to meditate with him.

The second vivid memory I hold dear from that trip (as far as sacred space and that goes) occurred while we were in Avebury. It was rather late, the sun was setting, and we really didn’t have much time to spend there, but I remember it being a much more tangible feeling of presence there. Perhaps it was because we could actually approach the stones; maybe it was just the liminal time of day we were there or the place itself. I couldn’t quite say.

As we wandered about the stones, we saw an older gentleman with rather wild grey curls sitting at the base of one of the smaller stones. He had candles, incense, etc. and was using dowsing rods. The rest of our group gave him sort of a wide berth, and I (as the sort of unofficial pagan authority of the crew) stood a respectable and out-of-earshot ways off, explaining to my roommate that he was probably using the dowsing rods to look for ley lines in the area. He then turned to look at us and asked: “Have you two got good imaginations on you?” We were a little surprised, but answered that yes, we supposed we did. “Do you know where the word imagination comes from?” We honestly weren’t sure. “I. Magi. Nation. A nation of magicians. Merlin is one of my guides, you know.” He then proceeded to tell us this tale about Merlin performing his first magic trick in the stone circle in which we stood: he’d turned a friend invisible and was unable to turn him back again. He also told us about how the Druids had used that place as a place for their initiations. I wasn’t at all sure on the historical accuracy of those things, but in the moment, you sort of wanted to suspend your disbelief. Awen was flowing, and you could almost see what he was describing in your mind’s eye. He then looked at us again and said: “I get Druid from both of you.” I was a little shocked because, of course, I was. I told him so, and he simply turned, and went back to his business of dowsing as though it had never happened. And for the life of me, I swear no one else seems to have seen or heard him say these things but my roommate and I. That is no doubt a mystery and a feeling I will remember for quite some time.

And finally, the last part for this prompt: circle casting. I’ll be honest, I don’t perform circle casting in my own work. For one, I’ve been studying off-and-on with a Druid organization for some time that doesn’t utilize them in their ritual formats. But, more importantly I find them to be distracting and a waste of energy and time. Circles, to my understanding, function for a few general purposes:

  1. To contain and thereby magnify energy raised during a working until it comes time to release it at the end of the ritual.
  2. To protect the individuals within and the magical working from the influence of any nasty / negative energy.
  3. To create a sort of liminal and marked out place in which a ritual can occur and entities (spirits, gods, whatever) may be more easily contacted.

However, as I’ve mentioned above, I don’t generally feel a need to do this. For starters, I always cleanse a place before I use it, and if appropriate might make small offerings to any outside spirits that might be poking about to say “Hey, please let me use this space for a bit.” I don’t perform rituals in places where negative energy is hanging about, and I certainly am confident enough in my own ability to raise and manipulate my own energy to not feel a need for the circle of protection, or the circle that focuses energy in an external space. I also work with many liminal deities. I think it’s very safe to assume I don’t need liminal space for them to get messages across. When I do a particular magical working, my own personal energy field acts in the way a circle might: raising, containing, and releasing energy for my working. It eliminates the need for a physical circle- which means less time/resources marking it out, and I don’t need to cut a door in it should I forget something (which I often do!). It also helps hone in my focus on the working at hand. I often find that by the time I draw and cast a circle, call the quarters, etc. I’m quite distracted from what I was originally intending to accomplish.

Please note, I’m not bashing on anyone who uses circles. They can be quite useful to one’s practice especially when you’re just beginning! I just don’t feel a need to use them.

And, thus concludes a very long blog post. Thank you for hanging in there and reading if you’ve made it this far.

Love and blessings to you all
-Rachel

Autumn Equinox & The Hunt- Reaping & Release

14358813_1260572750639615_5907696368104283498_n

The Autumnal Equinox, or Mabon, is only a few short days away now. One of my earliest memories of this particular sabbat is of my old high school group clustered in a tiny grove of pine and cedar trees, moving counter-clockwise to banish any remaining ‘funk’ before we descended into the colder, winter months. After all, who wanted to head into darker months holding onto a bunch of negativity? I think we’d gotten the rite from one of the Sweep novels, to be completely honest, but something about it felt strangely poignant then, and still does now. As the leaves redden, deaden, and fall, so too should any of the negativity that I’m holding onto before the dark of Samhain and Winter arrive.

It is a time for laying to rest that which does not serve me, and for acknowledging that the part of the year had come when my creativity’s peak is reaching its end. Between Beltane and now, I generally have a great deal of motivation for different projects, adventures with friends, making physical things, etc. Mabon marks a turning inward. From here on out, until that time comes once again, my focus is more inwards, more on personal work than on outward creativity.

12109165_1032927983404094_5950030211263169160_n

But the equinox is equally about calling to me the strength I’ll need to journey on through the darker months as well. The coming months are usually more deeply reflective; they reveal many things about myself, and can be trying in ways that rest of the school year is not. These are the days when I’ll need those deep reserves of inspiration, motivation, faith, etc.- particularly when my path feels stagnant.

This year, as I’ve been working more specifically with the Hunt, I’m planning to call upon them for assistance. I’ve explained in blogs and videos recently that I work with them as sort of psychopomp-like entities. They can assist when things feel as though they’re going nowhere. Within the next couple of days, I’ll likely be doing a small ritual to honor them and begin this process.

Wishing you all the best in your own reaping and laying to rest this harvest season,
~Rachel

A Manifesto (Or the Big, Bad Post of My Beliefs)

IMG_1733.JPG

In some attempt at negating a need to continuously link back to my other blog’s posts- and in part to really gather my thoughts and set out a foundation of what it is I believe about a variety of cosmological and general witchy topics- I’ve decided to make this post. It’s a sort of manifesto, a statement of belief, and of what standards I hold myself to in my personal practices as I start to rebuild them. For me, it will help to de-clutter my head space and focus on what my deeply held thoughts/beliefs/ideals are, and what things are no longer of use to me. And for you, it’ll give you a bit of an idea of where I’m coming from, and the belief system which influences my writing.

So. Let’s begin, shall we?

13532758_1191440864219471_6858653739345415055_n

On Creation / Cosmology / The Nature of the Universe: Until very recently, I hadn’t really connected with a specific creation story in a way that had really resonated with me. About a year ago, I came across Frank Mills’s re-telling and analysis of The Oran Mór. I can’t entirely explain it, but something about this story just struck a chord deep within me, and almost immediately, it felt like a secret truth- a sort of means to have an origin story beyond science, but still allow for the science of evolution and the gradual development of different forces of life, natural movements of the earth, the possibility of alternate dimensions… Basically, it took science and faith and wove them into poetry (my retelling of it from Mills’s writing is found below):

The Oran Mór begins, as Mills describes, with stillness and silence. Then, softly at first, but with growing, spiraling momentum, a melody began to stretch out across the dark waters. In that crescendo, life began. But, the melody did not cease; it continued, cycling as knot-work might in an ever-continuing pattern of life and death, giving and receiving. In his essay, Mills continues to call The Oran Mór “the sea melody” and “the creative melody.” It is the Great Melody that “…flows through the myths and legends of submerged lands, mystical springs, life-giving cauldrons, and holy grails.” It is the Great Melody that inspires wisdom and creation both in the singer of it and those who hear it. It is this song that became the sacred song of life in Celtic tradition, and it is this song that drives us to create, to tell stories, to recount our histories, to go on pilgrimages, and even drives the urge to go “home” wherever that home may be. He even suggests that it is The Oran Mór that gives rise to the song-like Celtic languages.

He then turns to what he feels to be the basic question not only of Celtic Myth, but of life:“Why do you suffer?” Mills goes on to describe that though the song is still playing on, as it always has, we live now in an age where many cannot hear it and many more do not even bother to listen. We live in an age of fragmentation, of in-your-face individualism, and of a number of half-truths all trying to be presented as The Great Melody. In this world of conflicting ‘realities’ our souls are in a state of dis-ease. Because of this dis-ease, we have lost our way and our own connection with the divine powers of creation. We have lost touch with our co-creative role with the divine.

Still, though this seems a bleak analysis of the modern human condition, there is hope. Though we are, as Mills states, fragmented and in that fragmented state quite incapable of becoming one with The Great Melody once more, there is a means. We must find our hero, that “…divine nature with which we have been created that is within.” By finding that piece of our inner selves, we are able to succeed in the struggle between the fragmented state and connection with the song. In finding this state, we become one not only with ourselves and our world, but with all worlds and the places between them. Mills calls this place between the mundane world and the Otherworld the “One World.”

Mills suggests that to live sustainably and wholly, we need to learn to live within / with connection to The One World. When we find ourselves at one with and open to The Great Melody, the melody within us recognizes itself in melody of the Great Song. It is at this point, we find ourselves possessing great intuition. The Oran Mór brings to us, when we are able to recognize it and sing with it, “The Sight” of all things that were, all things that are, and all things that will be. Rather than living, as many traditions would suggest, with one foot in this world and one foot in the Other, Mills suggests that we live simultaneously in both worlds: in the One World. It is then that we rejoin once more with divine creation and find that we are no longer suffering.

Rather than using the scientific, impersonal terms of the Big Bang, the story of The Oran Mór is more visceral. It’s easier to imagine a song stirring in the darkness and gradually building and building and changing as worlds and life are created, than a sudden explosion that came out of (seemingly) nowhere in the vastness of space. And yet, in acknowledging that the song is changing, constantly creating, etc. it gives room for the scientific truths of evolutionary theory to coexist with spirituality. It gives, beyond then, a sense of meaning- we are part of the eternal forces of creation. We are one with all beings and all worlds, and our purpose, as is the purpose of all life, is to create. Being in-tune with that song of creation brings us closer to that connection, and allows us to do incredible things. All worlds exist within the song, and all things are but strands of melody within it.

IMG_1790.JPG

On Gods / Spirits: Because The Oran Mór story doesn’t include a creator deity, it stands to reason that Gods, Goddesses, faeries, etc. were created by the Great Song. In Celtic myth, I’ve found especially, figures whom are now worshiped by neo-Pagans as deities are not really explicitly called as such. Some of this could have much to do with the means in which the stories were recorded by Christian monks, but could also, I think, have some to do with the fact that these myths were part of a rich and vibrant oral tradition. The figures linger somewhere in the fuzzy lines between history and legend.

It’s my personal gnosis that the gods are just that: somewhere in the spaces in between. I think they were beings who once lived, and had (hence their great abilities) a deep connection with The One World and the song of creation. Once they passed on, they became one again with that One World and the song. Because they were gifted, and because they were remembered, I think that they can still be reached through their legends, through the right strands of melody plucked from that song of creation. They can still offer us guidance and assistance. They, like the song, are in all things and all beings; you only need to have a properly trained ear.

IMG_1829.JPG

On Life/Death/Rebirth & Where the Wylde Hunt Plays Into This at All: I explored this topic in-depth earlier in 2015, and my thoughts haven’t changed too much regarding the matter:

Much of my idea of life, death, and rebirth in this post will come from the Oran Mór myth and from the Three Circles of Manifestation concept in John Michael Greer’s The Druidry Handbook as these are the two that resonate the most with me personally.

In Greer’s chapter on The Three Circles of Manifestation it speaks of a pattern of reincarnation. To me, it felt a bit akin to the idea of finally reaching Nirvana in Eastern traditions.

Three Circles

In this pattern, all matter and “soul stuff” (for lack of better term) originate from Annwn, simultaneously Underworld-of-sorts and source of all building blocks for life. Once a soul has been born from the depths of Annwn, it begins a journey through many lifetimes. The realm in which this series of lifetimes takes place is Abred. The soul must experience and suffer all things through these different incarnations, moving from very simple single-celled life, into plants, into animals, and in the upper reaches of Abred, into human life. Throughout this process, the soul might move up and down between different life forms, learning all lessons there are for it to learn.

Once the soul has experienced all things, it moves onward into the realm of Gwynfydd. Here, each soul is allowed to rest and reflect, synthesizing all the lessons they have learned in their many lifetimes. The soul is given gifts of power and wisdom here, and soul is able now to reflect its own unique Awen (or as I’ve come to think of it, their strain of the Great Song).

Once a soul has learned to express its unique harmony, it may rise again into the realm of Ceugant. It is here that the gods dwell, and here that soul will dwell forever in peace, power, and knowledge.

I have begun to connect this to the Oran Mór as thus: if the One World is, as I feel that it is, like an ocean, could these not be viewed as sort of levels within that primordial and dark sea? Souls come forth from the depths of the One World. As we live through many lives, and learn all that there is to learn, we come to be aware of our connection to all that was, all that is, and all that will be. When he come to know our connection, and indeed to know on a soul-level, all things and their experiences, it is then that we move beyond to the next step.

With what we have learned, in Gwynfydd we learn to express our unique song and its reflections of all that our soul has learned. We begin to be able to sing, as Taliesin had:

I have been a multitude of shapes,
Before I assumed a consistent form.
I have been a sword, narrow, variegated,
I will believe when it is apparent.
I have been a tear in the air,
I have been in the dullest of stars.
I have been a word among letters…

Once we know our song and know of our ability to sing it in harmony with all the strands of the Great Song, we move beyond to Ceugant. Ceugant is the outer reaches of the One World, where the soul joins in the endless process of co-creation in the Great Melody.

For me, the Wylde Hunt exists as a sort of psychopomp-like entity. It moves within and without the various planes of existence. It is the force that brings the necessary end of one phrase of the song, so that another might take its place. It is the Wylde Hunt which, in my views, ferries a soul through these different realms of existence and onto wherever it is they are headed to next: a new life, a new realm, or even into their ranks.

For me, working with the Hunt entails honoring them as the wild forces of the Universe, working with them through transitional parts of the year (and I’m currently working on casting off the Wheel of the Year and developing my own) as well as those deep, transitional parts of my own life. I also feel called, on a personal level, to assist those I can on those same big transitional points of life to the best of my ability.

IMG_1859.JPG

Things I Value Beyond All Else: The first is (of course) the natural world and the deep connection I feel with it: the faces I find in the trunks of trees and the exchanges I have with them, blazes of color in autumn that take my breath away, the absolute joy of identifying stars and planets in the night sky, winds strong enough to nearly blow me over- and gentle breezes that rattle the cottonwood leaves, the list could go on literally forever.

The next thing would be, I think, creativity. My ability to create, to share my thoughts and my expressions of self through poetry, photography, music, drawing, etc. etc. is incredibly valuable to me- and I always want to encourage and embrace that in those around me. We are most connected to all that is when we participate in leaving something of ourselves- our souls’ visions in the world.

And of course, there are the very traditional values of loyalty, hospitality, compassion, courage, honesty, respect, wisdom, peace… I tried, at one point, to make a sort of chivalric / ‘Hunters’ Code’. At best, it feels redundant. My thoughts now are basically this: be compassionate and respectful of all people, yet defend yourself and your energy should you be in danger; always seek truth and wisdom, and live honestly, fully, and in harmony to the best of your ability. 

IMG_2435.JPG

On Some Witchy Topics: This is the part where I try to go through some of the main topics of discussion I’ve seen floating about the community and my stance on them.

  • Laws of Return / The Wiccan Rede / Etc.: I don’t follow this exactly. Obviously, I would NEVER hurt anyone or anything intentionally, and I do believe this: if you put out nasty energy constantly, eventually some of that’s going to come back to you. The same is true of putting out positive energy. I don’t think it’s always a neat ‘three/five/ten/whatever times what you put out comes back’. Do accidents happen? Yes. My rule of thumb is to consider the consequences of my actions: How will this affect the whole?
  • The Role of Ritual: I’ve explained a bit briefly elsewhere, but I’ll touch on it here, as well. Ritual here, means something deliberately done, and in a particular order that can be (and often is) repeated. Habits and routines are different in that they sort of become unconscious decisions after a time.
    For me, ritual is very indicative of careful thought and intention. Each step of the process has a specific meaning. It is thought-out and done intentionally because of its meaning, not because “well, we do it every day/year/etc.”The situations that lend themselves most towards being considered “ritual” in my personal life are, of course, spiritual. On the high days, there is a specific sequence of words, gestures, etc. that I perform to honor my gods and to celebrate the seasons. When I am in need of something and decide to do spell work, there is a set of motions that I go through with careful thought and focus on my intention. More mundane rituals, for me, might be graduation ceremonies, birthdays, funerals, celebrations of secular holidays, etc. Each time, there is an intention and a thought process that accompanies the set of actions. 
    These rituals, spiritual and mundane, for me mark passages through life and through time. They are the points where we are called to take stock of where we are, to reflect upon what has past, to celebrate all of those things, and to look forward towards what is yet to come. The word “ritual” for me denotes something sacred, not in the way that religious pilgrimage sites are sacred, but in the way that they remind us of our humanity, and call us out of our auto-piloted careening through everyday life.
  • Circle Casting: I rarely, if ever, cast a circle when I’m doing witchcraft. For some people it is an awesome tool for focusing their energy, projecting their consciousness between realms of existence, and protecting themselves. For me, it is more distraction than anything; my energy is spent before I get to what it is I’m trying to do- and I’m all out of focus because I’ve spent a great deal of attention calling upon energy for the circle, the elemental quarters, and then deities. It is my opinion, that I can connect with energy, protect myself with personal sigils and amulets that are worn, and focus myself far more efficiently without one.
  • Spells- And That Nasty Topic of Hexes/Curses: I do spells very sparingly. If I need some help with a situation, and I have done all that I can on a mundane level, then I may cast a spell. Hexes and Curses, I believe, aren’t necessarily grounds for condemnation. Do I think there are better uses of energy? Absolutely. Do I think that people who do them are totally valid? Absolutely. The closest I’ve come, personally, to doing a ‘curse’ was more akin to holding a mirror up to someone and saying “Look. Look at what it is you’re doing; it’s causing me distress.” It was an “I’m feeling desperate and cannot escape your presence, so look:…” type of spell used in, what I felt were, really extreme cases of self-defense.

13495305_1190594667637424_5499736662281489717_n

And since, I’ve exhausted my immediate pile of topics that wouldn’t require a longer tangent (and some of these may yet get a longer post)- and I’ve gone on for just about 3,000 words, I think I will wrap this up. Above is, essentially, my personal beliefs about the Universe, the gods, and my thoughts on witchy practice. As I rebuild my spirituality, my focus is on connection: feeling truthfully and deeply connected with all that is around me. My goal is to create a regular practice that sustains me. It should aid me in difficult times, and allow me to soar in the more pleasant ones. It should be a living, breathing practice that has room for all aspects of my personality- all the verses of my song.

Until Next Time,
Rachel